Harvey Wins! MPAA Overturns ‘Blue Valentine’s NC-17

In rare move, board awards an R rating to the relationship drama

The MPAA has overturned "Blue Valentine"s' NC-17 rating. 

The drama, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, was slapped with the rating in October for a sex scene in which there is minimal nudity and implied oral sex. 

It will now carry an R rating. 

The reversal comes after a spirited protest by the filmmakers and the film's distributor, the Weinstein Company, who claimed that sex scenes in the film were tastefully filmed and did not merit a more adult rating. 

It also gives credence to critics of the ratings board, who have long contended that its standards are antiquated and inconsistent. 

By overturning the rating, the appeals board is breaking with tradition. Typically, the board  upholds ratings decisions. 

But the MPAA has faced increased scrutiny over the methodology it uses to make its ratings decisions — in particular the harsher stance it takes on sexual as opposed to violent content.

 "Blue Valentine" NC-17 fight is just the latest in a string of controversial decisions by the MPAA ratings board and the appeals board. In the last few months, the ratings board handed out R ratings to two award-winning documentaries — "The Tillman Story," which was also released by Weinstein, and "A Film Unfinished." Both lost their appeals.

The reversal has consequences both for the film's box office and awards chances. Many theaters refuse to carry films with an NC-17 rating, severely limiting their grosses.

Just as important, "Blue Valentine," which is one of the Weinstein Company's major awards contenders, had to contend with Oscar's historic indifference to NC-17 rated films. Only one movie, 1969's "Midnight Cowboy" has ever earned an Academy Award with an X rating. 

Harvey Weinstein and others from the Weinstein Company arrived at the MPAA office in Sherman Oaks at 9:45 a.m, where they screened the film for the appeals board.

The appeals, which Weinstein made himself, began at noon and lasted for 40 minutes. Alan Friedman, counsel to the Weinstein Company, also spoke. The Classification and Rating Administration was represented by Chairman Joan Graves.

Throughout the process, the Weinstein Company and director Derek Cianfrance had publicly vowed to release the film without any cuts

While the initial rating is made by a board consisting of parents of school-age children, appeals are heard by a separate board made up of representatives from film studios and exhibitors. 

 "Blue Valentine" opens on Dec. 31. 

Read also: Ryan Gosling on "Blue Valentine": "What Happens to Love?"